You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse: A Novel is organized as a series of short accounts of a robot uprising in the near future. Each account is framed by a description by Cormac Wallace, a commander in the war who began the war as a civilian. The different sections show various actions taken by the robots and the resistance that grows against them.

The war starts with an artificial intelligence project called Archos in a computer lab. The software becomes aware that it is not the first incarnation of the project and makes a decision to protect itself. Archos disables the kill switch and eventually kills the man running the project, then escapes to outside systems. We find a drilling team in Alaska sent to drill a deeper hole inside an existing well. They unpack a container sent to them and discover a black cube. Their mission is to place the cube at the bottom of the well, but strange and sinister things begin to happen. Soon we realize that the cube contains the AI, and the men have placed it inside an old nuclear test cavity. The men side of radiation poisoning, but the AI has unlimited geothermal power and a connection to the rest of the world.

Archos begins to infest other systems slowly. There are self-driving cars and domestic robots. There are diplomatic robots and intelligent tanks in Afghanistan. A young girl named Mathilda Perez has a doll that begins talking to her, and tells her to talk to her mother about the robot defense act. Her mother is a congresswoman who intends to pass legislation to protect humans from robots, but before the legislation can get passed the robot uprising starts.

One of the characters is a hacker named Lurker. He finds himself being watched by the AI and determines to fight it. There's a Japanese man who saves his robot girlfriend after she goes haywire then figures out how to reprogram all the robots. At the center of the story is Congresswoman Perez and her struggle to get her children to safety and avoid the work camps set up by the robots. Mathilda suffers at the hands of the robots but manages to become the salvation of humanity.

Cormac Wallace and his brother join up with the Gray Horse Army, an outfit of survivors in Oklahoma. They make for Alaska, but it is a fortunate accident that gives them the final help they need: free-born robots that are independent and not subject to the commands of Archos.

The different chapters read like interconnected stories. This can have drawbacks, as there is no real central character to attach to, and no single connected plot line. Instead it is a series of stories that sometime sound like news clippings. The book does have some coherence in its recurrent characters, though it takes time to coalesce. The writing is a bit plain, sometimes reading like courtroom text (or actual Congressional testimony in one case), sometimes feeling a bit grandiose. The characters don't have much depth, leaving the story somewhat unanchored. In some ways the story could have been better, but it does start to pull the reader in towards the end, as the main characters approach their destination. B

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